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Totem Pole for Beaver House

Arts of the Americas

Dr. Charles Newcombe, an avid collector of Northwest Coast art for many museums, obtained this pole from the village of Kayang in 1911 and had it cut in half in order to ship it to the Brooklyn Museum.

Poles such as this one display a family's origins, supernatural experiences, achievements, wealth, status, exploits, acquisitions, and territories. Photographs from Kayang, Queen Charlotte Islands, identify this example as the front pole of the "Beaver House," owned by the T'uwa clan of the Raven group. Its carved crests represent beings that, according to clan legend, an ancestor encountered. Only the descendants of the clan are believed to have the right to depict this story.

MEDIUM Cedar wood
DATES mid–19th century
DIMENSIONS (a) section: 264 x 39 1/2 x 27 in., 1200 lb. (670.6 x 100.3 x 68.6 cm, 544.3kg) (b) section: 234 x 44 x 33 in., 1650 lb. (594.4 x 111.8 x 83.8 cm, 748.4kg) storage (CRATE made 2009 by Surroundart for 'a' with top Bird detached): 53 × 50 × 242 in. (134.6 × 127 × 614.7 cm) storage (CRATE made 2009 by Surroundart for 'b'): 56 × 50 × 253 in. (142.2  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1911, Purchased with funds given by Robert B. Woodward
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved Haida totem pole that has been cut into two sections. (In the photograph, details of both sections are shown flanking the speaker figure, 05.588.7418). Both sections are made of unpainted cedar wood with hollow concavities in the rear. Depicted animals on section (a) are (top to bottom): bird (thunderbird or eagle); adult bear; small baby bear's head and paws revealed between upper adult bear's legs; adult bear with long tongue extended downward; head of adult bear or beaver (cut off from rest of its body when totem pole was cut into two sections). Depicted animals on section (b) are (top to bottom): body only of adult bear; baby bear crawling downward with hind quarters at top and head at bottom; adult bear; young bear's head with long ears peering out between legs of adult bear above it. The totem pole was cut into two sections before it was brought to the Museum in 1911. The overall condition of the two sections is poor and unstable. The wood is dry and brittle. There are numerous deep cracks, material losses, and surface abrasions.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Haida. Totem Pole for Beaver House, mid–19th century. Cedar wood, (a) section: 264 x 39 1/2 x 27 in., 1200 lb. (670.6 x 100.3 x 68.6 cm, 544.3kg). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1911, Purchased with funds given by Robert B. Woodward, 11.703a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 05.588.7418_11.703a-b_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE 05.588.7418_11.703a-b_SL1.jpg.
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